Study Guide

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Part Six: The White Continent

By Maria Semple

Part Six: The White Continent

  • Have you gotten tired of that endless stream of documents? Well, your wish has come true, because this part of the novel shifts to a standard, first-person narration from Bee.

  • She and Elgin fly first-class (thanks, Microsoft) to Santiago, Chile to begin their own Antarctic journey. Things are tense, as usual.

  • Thinking back to her time at Choate, Bee remembers its "big and majestic" campus (6.37). That was the only thing she liked about it, however.

  • All the other kids were rich and pretentious...not Bee's type. She even preferred the schmucks back at Galer Street over this gaggle.

  • In that situation, receiving the dossier was a breath of fresh air. She describes how upset she was when she realized that Sarah was sneaking through her stuff and reading it.

  • As we know, this led to her leaving Choate. She'll be transferring to Lakeside, which is back in Seattle.

  • The first thing Bee does when she gets to Seattle is go to Youth Group, but it's a disappointment.

  • The youth minister makes an uncomfortable comment about Bernadette when she arrives, and Bee can tell that Kennedy is now nervous around her.

  • Back in the present, Bee and Elgin board the cruise ship. Bee admits to us that she's not actually here for closure at all; she wants to find Bernadette.

  • So she starts snooping. Her first stop: the Shackleton Lounge, where, according to Bernadette's passenger log, she spent many a night pounding drinks.

  • Bee approaches a group of "crew members" and "naturalists" and asks whether any of them were on the same cruise as her dear old mum (6.75).

  • Nobody knows Bernadette, but they all know of her. They refer to her as the "lady who killed herself," which infuriates Bee (6.85). She storms back to the room, blowing straight past Elgin.

  • Alone, she examines the captain's log to see where else Bernadette spent time. A $433 charge at the gift shop is a good place to start.

  • She gets bowled over by a wave of seasickness as soon as she leaves the room. A nice housekeeper notices and guides her back to her bed, where she slips into a deep sleep.

  • Bee wakes up 14 hours later, just as the ship is passing through the Drake Passage. Everyone is locked up in their rooms, but Bee braves the tossing ship to check out the gift shop.

  • The ship is so shaky that the shop is locked up. Bee asks the lone worker if she can get a copy of Bernadette's receipts. The woman promises to send them to the room.

  • And she does...though Elgin intercepts her first.

  • Bee finally admits to her dad that she's not here for closure, but instead an icy cold rescue operation.

  • Her theory, she explains, is that mom had such a good time on the cruise that she decided to stay in Antarctica.

  • Elgin is convinced that Bernadette died, however. Bee accuses him of only believing that because it's "'convenient'" for him given the whole lovechild thing (6.172).

  • Upset, Elgin drags her up the deck of the ship to show her how unlikely it is that Bernadette could survive in such extreme temperatures. The first blast of icy air makes his argument well.

  • Finally, Bee admits to herself that she will "never find" her mother (6.204). Elgin tries to comfort her, but she runs straight back to the room and goes to sleep.

  • Bee is awoken by the sound of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." Apparently, that's how cruise ships celebrate their arrival in Antarctica proper.

  • Elgin spends the days going out on excursions, but Bee hardly leaves the room. She watches as the passengers leave the ship in "black rubber boats with motors called Zodiacs" from her window (6.221).

  • One night, she's watching TV when she sees an announcement about an excursion the following day to Port Lockroy, a former British military outpost.

  • A bolt of inspiration strikes Bee...maybe that's where Bernadette is hiding. She decides to join the excursion and find out herself.

  • After scanning her ID at the departure station, Bee boards her first Zodiac. She's just as blown away by the freezing weather as she was before.

  • Port Lockroy is...small. It's basically just a gift shop. Bee can't figure out where her mom might be hiding.

  • The two girls who work there start giving a tour, but Bee splits off to explore. There are three doors, and all of them lead outside. So where could she be hiding?

  • When she realizes that her mom isn't there, Bee starts crying. She runs outside and sits down in the snow, sobbing beside an elephant seal.

  • Elgin finds her. He comforts her and tells her that he misses Bernadette too, that she's his "'best friend'" (6.280).

  • He says that he should have done more to support Bernadette. He should have helped her rediscover her creative impulses. He should've thought more about her feelings.

  • Elgin reveals that he even hired a bounty hunter to locate Bernadette. He found zilch.

  • That's not the only surprise, either. Apparently, Samantha 2 is canceled. Microsoft realized they weren't going to make any money from it, so they folded the project into their Xbox division.

  • The next day, Bee goes out with Nick, a scientist Elgin befriended, to count penguins. It's an awe-inspiring experience for our young protagonist.

  • When she returns, she tries to scan her ID to re-board, but an error message appears. Nick explains that it's because she didn't swipe out when she left that morning. As far as the ship's computers are concerned, she's still onboard.

  • Later that day, Bee runs into the two girls from Port Lockroy onboard. They, along with other crew members, will be part of a crew transfer with another ship that will be passing nearby.

  • Bee plays Risk with the two women, Vivian and Iris, and has a grand time. Hours pass, and Vivian explains that they've likely just reached Palmer Station, the largest scientific facility in Antarctica.

  • Bee is confused; they're not supposed to stop there. It's not on the ship's manifest.

  • The two girls explain that only a few scientists, like Nick, will be disembarking for Palmer Station in Zodiacs. Passengers are to remain onboard.

  • Likewise, scientists from Palmer Station are coming aboard for a little R&R, not to mention plenty of drinks.

  • Suddenly, Elgin appears. He has an idea. What if Bernadette didn't scan her ID card when she left the ship, like Bee earlier that day? In that case, there would be no sign she ever left the boat.

  • He also reveals that the Pink Penguin (the cocktail that was purchased a bunch of times on Bernadette's account) is the "'official drink'" of the Palmer Station staff (6.439).

  • They realize at the same time that Bernadette must have slipped off the ship during one of the crew transfers and somehow made it to Palmer Station. She's alive.

  • Elgin has a plan: they're going to "'steal a Zodiac'" (6.468). Game on.

  • They sneak out to a boat and float clandestinely to shore.

  • Elgin stays behind to hold off the staff, telling Bee to get back to the ship within thirty minutes or they might leave without her.

  • He also hands her a "small black velvet bag with a gold silk rope" and asks her to give it to her mom (6.497).

  • She rushes into the station, which is really just a series of makeshift shipping containers and tents. Meanwhile, Elgin distracts the cruise workers, who don't notice Bee.

  • She wanders into a kitchen and finds something that overjoys her: a t-shirt from the Galer Street School. Mom must be here.

  • As if on cue, Bernadette appears. She and Bee hug.

  • Bernadette is confused and asks whether Bee is here because of the letter. Nope. Just good old-fashioned sleuthing.

  • Bee hands her mom the black bag.

  • Inside is an icon of Saint Bernadette, as well as a list. This time there are four items on it: "1) Beeber Bifocal 2) Twenty Mile House 3) Bee 4) Your Escape."

  • Below are the words "Fourteen Miracles To Go" (6.521).

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